It’s been over two weeks since the 15 Percent Pledge hit Canada, and we’re still waiting for the country’s major retailers to come on board and commit to, at a minimum, giving more shelf space to BIPOC-owned brands (so far, Hudson’s Bay and Indigo have started talking with Pledge organizers).
In the meantime, we can all uplift and support BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Colour) designers by buying their products and sharing their stories. “You can also personally take the pledge,” says Mosha Lundström Halbert, co-founder of outerwear brand Therma Kōta, who is spearheading the 15 Percent Pledge initiative in Canada alongside its founder Aurora James. “Look at your own discretionary spending, and try to allocate more of that personally and directly to BIPOC brands.”
Start by putting these 15 amazing BIPOC-owned fashion and accessories brands on your radar, and their products into your shopping carts.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.1 of 15
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Toronto native Aurora James, creator of the 15 Percent Pledge
, launched Brother Vellies in 2013 as a footwear line celebrating traditional African designs and craftsmanship. Since then, the CAFA
and CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award-winning label has expanded and evolved to include handbags, small leather goods, and other accessories ethically made across the globe.
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Vancouverite Myla Davey launched Cherry Gardens in 2018; the athleisure-inspired, minimalist loungewear line is designed and made in Toronto. Expect to find low-maintenance, high-comfort separates you can feel good in. Think: high-cut undies, cropped tanks, and bike shorts in classic hues.
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Helmed by Hong Kong-born, Vancouver-raised designer Aileen Lee, this slow-fashion label’s pensive designs are perfect for lounging in at home (or walking through a field of flowers, but only when the light is right). The small-batch line mostly uses natural and plant-based fabrics, and products are made in Vancouver by tailors, artists, and graduates of the non-profit Common Thread
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Accessories designer Warren Steven Scott, whose work is carried in a number of art gallery and museum shops across Canada, is best known for his acrylic and sterling silver earrings. A member of the Nlaka'pamux Nation, Scott incorporates beautiful shapes such as ovoids and feathers into his lightweight, modern designs. This past spring, he collaborated with Toronto handbag brand Opelle
on a limited-edition collection
of sculptural leather bags featuring sheer acrylic handles and hardware.
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There aren’t many fashion labels that will offer free mending sessions
or run a second-hand marketplace
for older designs, but sustainability and community are both important to designer Sarra Tang. Hoi Bo, her Toronto-based apparel and accessories brand, offers timeless pieces like 3D-knit bags and breezy summer dresses — all locally made using sturdy, natural materials like linen and leather.
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Wishing for a pair of chic designer heels that you can comfortably wear for hours? Head to the Zvelle website. Iranian-born, Toronto-based designer Elle AyoubZadeh specializes in unique, delicate suede, and leather footwear designs with timeless appeal. P.S. Don’t sleep on the brand’s luxurious made-in-Italy totes, introduced last fall.
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A women’s ready-to-wear label by designer Habi Gerba, Gazelles offers made-in-Montreal, tailored separates that are both elegant and versatile. The designer’s favourite piece from her latest collection? The dramatic, draped-silk Chantal blouse
that looks as great with jeans as it does with a pencil skirt.
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Interesting textures and simple, arresting cuts are features of Vancouver’s Priory label, headed by Eunice Quan
and made locally. This well-respected women’s ready-to-wear line is carried internationally by fashionable retailers from Japan to Portland, OR.
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We’re big fans of womenswear designer Lesley Hampton
, whose stunning runway collections are inspired by complex topics like indigeneity and identity, and mental health. The Newfoundland-born Indigenous designer is known for her intricate, statement-making dresses and eveningwear, which are designed with size inclusivity and body positivity in mind.
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Love handcrafted, one-of-a-kind jewelry? You’ll want to check out Métis designer Emma-Love Cabana’s beautiful beaded earrings. Each Three Sisters by Emma design is made by Cabana herself, and the vibrant colours are inspired by where she's lived. FYI: there are both made-to-order styles and ready-to-ship earrings available online.
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Omi Woods, founded by Ashley Alexis McFarlane, offers eye-catching jewelry made with conflict-free fine metals and fair-trade gold sourced from small-scale mines in Africa. Featuring meaningful symbols such as Egyptian cartouches and the Ethiopian Coptic cross, this is statement jewelry that’s designed to become modern heirlooms.
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Stylist Tahnee Lloyd-Smith
launched Pretty Denim in 2018 with a fun 14-piece capsule collection featuring denim separates embellished with fringe and sequins. Her second capsule, new for 2020, features decidedly more streamlined, unadorned silhouettes in a neutral black, white, and khaki palette. We love that the small-batch line is produced in Canada using cotton from North American mills.
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Vietnamese and French-Canadian designer Caroline Pham makes every piece of Ora-C jewelry by hand in her Montreal atelier. Each piece is intended to be "wearable artwork," and each collection tells a visual story using mixed materials and vibrant colour combinations. Custom ring sizes and made-to-order designs are also available.
Twin brothers (and founders of the Want Les Essentiels fashion label) Byron and Dexter Peart introduced Goodee, a curated online marketplace and sustainable home goods and accessories line, last year. Goodee is a Certified B-Corp
company that also donates 1% of every sale to an Earth-friendly cause
. Beyond being thoughtfully designed and well-crafted, Goodee’s inventory is ethically produced and often supports multiple causes — the sturdy Bassi Market Tote
, for example, is made by refugees in Italy and features handwoven cotton fabric sourced from Burkina Faso.